The following section provides a general overview of some of the mental health challenges students on your campus may be living with. It is important to understand that mental health challenges are comparable to physical health conditions in many ways: they take many forms, they are distinct from the people who experience them (so we refer to “an individual with schizophrenia” rather than “a schizophrenic”), and they are treatable. The goal of this section is not meant for campus professionals to use as a tool to diagnosis others, but to breakdown misconceptions and provide insight into some of your students possible needs and experiences. As always, your role is not as counsellor but as a support.
Mental health challenges are health problems that affect the way students think about themselves, relate to others, and interact with the world around them. They affect their thoughts, feelings, and behaviours. Mental health challenges can disrupt a student’s life or create challenges, but with the right supports, a student can get back on a path to recovery and wellness.
It’s important to understand that there are many different types of mental health challenges that affect people in different ways. Within each mental health challenge, students may have very different symptoms and difficulties. However, symptoms are just one piece. Access to services, support from friends and family, and the ability to participate in communities play a big part in the way people experience mental health challenges. Culture, background, and personal beliefs also shape the way a student understands mental health challenges.
Keep in mind some students don’t see the name of a diagnosis as an important part of their journey, while others prefer the medical terms to describe their challenges. No matter how people talk about their experiences, they will likely need to use medical terms if they seek help in the health system. This is just how the system works right now but it isn’t the only way to talk about wellness.